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Ken Hall | Gallery Report

Gallery Report: May 2013

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Written by KEN HALL   
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 14:02

‘Casablanca’ poster, $107,550, Heritage

A massive six-sheet poster (81 inches by 81 inches) for the iconic movie Casablanca, one of just two copies known, sold for $107,550 at a vintage movie poster auction held March 23-24 by Heritage Auctions in Dallas. Also, a one-sheet for MGM's 1932 classic Tarzan and the Ape Man reached $65,725; a poster for D.W. Griffith's controversial epic Birth of a Nation made $47,800; a lobby card for 1931's Frankenstein brought $38,837; and a reissue one-sheet on linen for RKO's King Kong hit $35,850. Prices include a 19.5 percent buyer's premium.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2013 13:44

Celebrity Collector: Int'l film star Victor Alfieri - Zippo lighters

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Written by KEN HALL   
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 14:33
Victor has approximately 230 Zippo lighters in his collection – 70 in the U.S. and 160 in Italy.

Fans of daytime television will recognize the name Victor Alfieri as the Italian heartthrob who played on Days of Our Lives (1996-98) and The Bold and the Beautiful (1999-2000, 2004, 2009). He’s done with the soaps, but has enjoyed an international career as an actor in such films as The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003, with Helen Mirren and Anne Bancroft), My Sexiest Year (2007, with Frankie Muniz and Harvey Keitel), (2006, with Roseanna Arquette and Beau Bridges) and A Secret Promise (2009, with Ione Skye, Ron Silver and Talia Shire). He also has a recurring role on the popular television series Southland.

Alfieri is a passionate collector of Zippo lighters, and we say “passionately” because he’s quick to point out he doesn’t do it as a means of investment or with an eye toward monetary gain – it’s “purely for the passion of it – I’ve just always loved lighters, since I was a boy growing up in Rome.” There, his uncle had a simple, gold-plated lighter with the name “Breaklife” engraved on it (possibly the maker, although a Google search turned up no information on such a firm). “My uncle kept the lighter in a drawer and I would take it out and look at it all the time. When I noticed he wasn’t using it for anything, I just kind of adopted it as my own.”

As a young man, Alfieri began buying a lighter here and a lighter there until a collection was amassed. His lighter of choice? Zippo, the American-made brand that has been producing reusable, metal “windproof” lighters continuously since 1932 (even during World War II, when the firm switched from brass, which was in short supply during the war) to steel. “I liked the Zippo lighters first of all because they were American-made and for a boy and young adult growing up in Italy there is some fascination with all things American” he said. “And second, because so many Zippos are military-themed, they represented American strength to me.”

Over time, Alfieri has collected about 230 Zippo lighters – 160 of them are in storage in Italy, and 70 are kept in a secure place near his U.S. home in Los Angeles. “The most valuable ones are in Italy,” he said, “but because I spend so much time in America I can use and enjoy more the ones I have here. I don’t smoke cigarettes – only cigars – and you’re really not supposed to light a cigar with a butane lighter because the tobacco can take on the smell of the gas, but I sometimes break that rule by lighting a cigar with one of my Zippos.”

Alfieri used to display his lighters on shelving in his house, but because they required such frequent dusting he eventually gave up and put them in storage. “But I make it a point to keep six or seven lighters around the house – like in my bedroom or the living room – so people can enjoy looking at them and even use them. I rotate what I’ve got out from what’s in storage so there is always something new to look at.” Alfieri estimates he’s spent between $3,000 and $4,000 on his collection over the years, “which sounds a little crazy when you consider we’re talking about cigarette lighters, but it has always been a passion of mine.”

The collection includes at least 10 Elvis lighters (“I grew up with his music. In fact, the same uncle whose lighter got me started on my collection introduced me to Elvis”), one of the outlaw Jessie James (“It’s one of my favorites. To me Jessie James represents the Wild West and he’s just the ultimate bad boy”), several showing John Wayne (“Who doesn’t like John Wayne?”), one of the legendary “Rat Pack” of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., beautifully boxed, and one of a Celtic cross with blue pearl inlay (“It reminds me of being in Ireland in 2003 with Helen Mirren and filming The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone").

Like the “Rat Pack” lighter, many of Alfieri’s lighters are in their original boxes, a fact that will help them retain their value over time. As to where the actor buys his lighters, he keeps an eye out nearly everywhere he goes. “You typically don’t find lighters at auctions or estate sales,” he said, “so I buy them in shops. One trick I’ve learned is to look at the shopkeeper’s display case and try to figure out how long he’s been selling Zippos. Very often, they will have rare or discontinued lighters without even knowing it.” He made one such find about 10 years ago in southern Italy – a Native American bear claw lighter with turquoise inlay (cost: 40 euros).

Many of Alfieri’s lighters are limited-edition pieces. For instance, the “Rat Pack” lighter is #935 of 3,000; one of the John Wayne lighters is #3,419 of 5,000); and a silver-plated Elvis is #4,084 of 5,000. It should also be noted that the collection also includes a few lighters made by S.T. DuPont, the Paris-based luxury house formed in 1872. All of those are in Italy. It appears that Alfieri’s collection will continue to grow, as he makes an attempt to acquire a new lighter every time he visits a new place. “Lately I’ve been doing that for men’s rings as well,” he added. “I’ve got a collection of those now, too – around 20.”

Victor Alfieri was born in Rome, Italy, an only child raised by his mother and grandmother. He spent summers working in the family’s restaurant and, as a self-described class clown, created his own sketch comedy to entertain friends. At age 18, a photographer asked him to do an advertising shoot, and before long he was gracing the covers of numerous Italian magazines (or fotoromanzi). His modeling career was cut short when, while trying to protect his girlfriend from two attackers, Alfieri was slashed by the knife-wielding assailants and would required 56 stitches. Soon after, in 1991, he joined the Italian police force.

But his career as a policeman was also short-lived. After three years and four months, he decided to start a career in Hollywood as an actor. Much to the dismay of his relatives in Italy, Alfieri packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles. He quickly found work, first on Days of Our Lives and later The Bold and the Beautiful. Throughout his acting career, he has maintained an international profile, appearing in the 2007 Italian miniseries Pompeii, in which he played the lead role of Darius the gladiator; and the 2003 Italian miniseries Elisa di Rivombrosa, a period piece in which he played a sword-wielding assassin named Zanni La Morte.

Alfieri produced, wrote and directed a short film that is being developed into a full-length feature. Titled J.E.S., it is a horror-suspense-mystery film, shot in an ancient city outside Rome. In 2009, Alfieri had a minor role in the movie Angels and Demons, starring Tom Hanks, playing Lieutenant Valenti. On TV, he has appeared on the NBC series Persons Unknown (playing Stefano D’Angelo) and the NBC series Undercovers. He also continues to make appearances as Victor Cifuentes on the show Southland and will play the part of Razel in the upcoming Danny Wilson film Nephilim. Alfieri heads his own production company, Black Knight Entertainment.

Fans of Victor Alfieri may follow the star on Twitter (@AlfieriVictor).

Victor has approximately 230 Zippo lighters in his collection – 70 in the U.S. and 160 in Italy. Most of the U.S. portion of the collection is displayed on a table in Victor's Los Angeles home. Zippo has been producing reusable, metal ‘windproof’ lighters continuously since 1932. Victor has at least 10 Elvis Presley lighters in his collection. He grew up listening to Elvis. This Jesse James lighter is one of Victor's favorites. ‘He's the ultimate bad boy,’ Alfieri said. ‘Who doesn't like John Wayne?’ Victor asked rhetorically, showing off his lighter of The Duke. This lighter for the legendary ‘Rat Pack’ is beautifully boxed, as are many other of the lighters. This Celtic cross lighter with blue pearl-like inlay reminds Vincent of filming in Ireland in 2003. This is the lighter that started it all – his uncle's (a Breaklife), which Victor adopted as his own. Victor purchased this Native American-themed bear claw lighter in Italy for about 40 euros. Victor Alfieri in a scene from the movie ‘A Secret Promise’ (2009), with Ione Skye, Ron Silver and Talia Shire. Victor (left) played Lieutenant Valenti in the 2009 movie ‘Angels and Demons,’ with Tom Hanks (center). Alfieri starred in the 2007 Italian TV miniseries ‘Pompeii,’ playing the lead role of Darius the gladiator.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 16:09

Gallery Report: April 2013

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Written by KEN HALL   
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 17:12

George Rodrigue painting, $98,400, New Orleans Auction Galleries

A large oil on canvas painting by George Rodrigue, featuring his classic “Blue Dog” and titled My Yellow Oak, sold for $98,400 at a Southern Experience Auction held Feb. 23-24 by New Orleans Auction Galleries. Also, an oil on canvas by Marie Madeleine Seebold Molinary, titled Chrysanthemums, went for $61,500, a world auction record for the artist; two 19th century automaton music boxes realized $36,900; and a provincial Louis XV-style fruitwood settee hammered for $11,992. Prices include a 23 percent buyer's premium.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 June 2013 12:19

Gallery Report: March 2013

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Written by KEN HALL   
Thursday, 28 February 2013 16:29

Rosewood parlor suite, $24,150, Stevens Auction Co.

A four-piece laminated rosewood rococo parlor suite in the Hawkins pattern by J. & J.W. Meeks consisting of a sofa, armchair and two side chairs, made circa 1855, sold for $24,150 at an estates sale held Feb. 15-16 by Stevens Auction Co. in Aberdeen, Miss. Also, a laminated rosewood recamier by John H. Belter in the Fountain Elms pattern rose to $18,400; a rococo banquet dining table made by Alexander Roux circa 1855 made $17,250; and a Victorian-era portrait of a young girl in a green dress hit $8,050. Prices include a 15 percent buyer's premium.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 June 2013 12:19

Celebrity Collector: Actor-director Tim Matheson

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Written by KEN HALL   
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 14:38

Actor-director Tim Matheson.

Veteran film and TV actor Tim Matheson’s place in cinematic history will forever be secure, thanks to his role as ladies’ man Eric “Otter” Stratton in the 1979 frat-boy romp, National Lampoon’s Animal House, starring John Belushi. But Matheson has also earned a pair of Emmy nominations, for his portrayal of Vice President John Hoynes on the acclaimed NBC series The West Wing, and his acting career goes back to the 1960s, when he was a youngster appearing in shows like My Three Sons and Leave it to Beaver. He currently stars as the curmudgeonly Dr. Brick Breeland on The CW series Hart of Dixie and he directs many of the show’s episodes.

Matheson is a collector of Disney animation cels. Cel is short for celluloid – a transparent sheet on which objects are drawn or painted for traditional, hand-drawn animation. Actual celluloid was used during the first half of the 20th century, but since it was flammable and unstable, it was replaced for the most part by celluloid acetate. But with the advent of computer-assisted animation production, the use of cels has been practically abandoned in major productions. Disney studios stopped using animation cels altogether in 1990.

Because of their slippage into history, and because they are gorgeous to look at, animation cels have become highly prized by collectors like Matheson. As it happens, Matheson’s very first cel wasn’t from a Disney movie – it was from the ’60s cartoon show Jonny Quest. Matheson just happened to voice the title character.

“I was surrounded by animation cels on Jonny Quest, and never thought anything of it,” he recalled, “then Joe Barbera (one-half of the legendary animation team of Hanna-Barbera) gave me a cel and I just loved it.” Years would pass before Tim would think to turn the one cel into a collection, but one day in 1990 he was at an estate liquidation sale in Los Angeles (he’s always been a fan of estate sales and auctions). “There were all these crazy lots, and one contained three separate cels from Peter Pan – of Tinkerbell, Captain Hook and Peter Pan.”

Matheson wasn’t the only one there who wanted those cels, but he proved to be the most determined bidder, and a collection was officially born.

After that he scored a Mickey Mouse cel from the surreal 1940 Disney film Fantasia (purchased as a phone bidder at a Sotheby’s auction), a pair of unique “one-of-one” cels from the 1991 hit Beauty and the Beast (one of Belle and one of the Beast holding a rose, acquired at an auction in Los Angeles, held inside a huge Disney theater), and one from Lady and the Tramp, impressive at about 3 feet wide by 18 inches tall and with a painted (or Courvoisier) background, bought at Sotheby’s. He also owns a Cinderella.

Other cels include a pair from Space Ghost (the original cartoon show, on which he voiced the character of Jace) and several classics from the Warner Brothers cartoon studios – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepe LePew and two of Road Runner.

“I was lucky enough to have worked with the genius Mel Blanc, who did the voices for all those Warner Brothers cartoons,” Matheson said. “I worked with him on the Sinbad Jr. short cartoons and that led to my being able to acquire the Warner Brothers cels.” He added, “Animation art is a changing market, but for me it’s all about the beauty of the cel. These are classic bits of history. I never think of it in terms of the money. It has to evoke in me an appreciation of the art.”

And that appreciation doesn’t begin and end with animation cels. He also collects folk art and has examples by renowned – and highly collectible – artists such as Howard Finster and Jimmy Lee Sudduth, explaining, “These creations are enchanting because they’re so child-like in their execution. Many were done with planks or other found materials, but that is part of their beauty and charm.”

Matheson was bitten by the folk art bug while browsing in an art shop in Wilmington, N.C. The Sudduth piece is huge – 20 inches wide and 3 feet tall – and depicts an Indian chief on what appears to be a blackboard-like material. It is artist signed in bold letters.

He also owns contemporary art, such as a poster created by Andy Warhol in 1977 for the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles, as part of the artist’s American Indian Series. It shows Russell Means, the Oglala Sioux activist and actor, and was signed by both Warhol and Means. He also owns a work by contemporary artist Billy Al Bengston (b. 1934), who lives and works in Venice, Calif. That painting, executed in Hawaii, is a work from Bengston’s Blue Dog Series and depicts two red flowers. It’s large: 2 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet.

Matheson said the smartest buy he ever made as an art investor came when he purchased a box creation by Joseph Cornell (New York, 1903-1972), titled Celestial Navigation, for $22,000 around 30 years ago. He sold it just a few years ago for $300,000.

“I rarely buy artwork with an eye toward a future sale,” he said, “but even back then I knew Cornell’s work would be worth a fortune someday. I was correct, and my patience paid off.”

Perhaps the most intriguing piece in Matheons’s collection is a pen-and-ink drawing by the renowned Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa (1910-1988). It was a gift from the actor Christopher Lloyd and shows a surreal rendering of the lead character from Kurosawa’s film Ran. It is signed and numbered (189/250).

Rounding out Matheson’s collections is a group of vintage movie posters. They include posters for Alfred Hitchcock thrillers Psycho and North By Northwest, The Prince and the Showgirl (with Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier), High Society Blues and, quite naturally, Animal House. One poster, purchased in Quebec, Canada, for the Hitchcock film Vertigo, Matheson picked up for just $60 and he feared he might have overpaid because of a censor stamp, affixed by Canadian censors. But a friend was able to remove the stamp and he restored and framed the poster, too, for a cost of $300. Now, the poster is worth between $3,500 and $5,500, Matheson estimates.

Matheson was born on Dec. 31, 1947 in Glendale, Calif., as Timothy Lewis Mathieson. His first lead role came at age 13, when he was cast as Roddy Miller in Robert Young’s CBS nostalgia series from 1961-62, Window on Main Street. Small parts and voice-over work followed, then in 1969 he joined the cast of The Virginian, in the show’s eighth season as Jim Horn. In 1972-73 he was a series regular in the last year of Bonanza, playing the character Griff King, a parolee who tries to turn his life around working on the Ponderosa Ranch, under the stern and paternal watch of Ben Cartwright. Observing Michael Landon direct some of those shows made him want to someday direct, a wish that would later be fulfilled.

Tim’s first movie role was in the 1967 comedy Divorce American Style, starring Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds. That was followed by a turn in the film Yours, Mine and Ours, with two other acting legends, Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. After that it was back to TV, with a starring role in the 1976-77 series The Quest (with Kurt Russell), and guest appearances on hit shows such as Hawaii 5-0, The Magician and Ironside. But his big break came when he was cast as one of the hard-partying, fun-loving Deltas in Animal House.

It was a part that almost didn’t happen. Matheson was originally tapped by the movie’s producers to play one of the no-nonsense, straight-laced Omegas. But he refused, saying, “I’m tired of playing it straight.” His protestations worked, and he was successfully cast as “Otter,” perhaps the most fun-loving Delta in the whole film. The following year, he was cast alongside John Belushi again in the 1941 Steven Spielberg comedy, 1941. By the mid-1980s, Matheson was a steady working actor, performing mainly in TV movies that spanned comedies to thrillers to science fiction to romance. He has never stopped working, leading up to the present day and Hart of Dixie. The show is in its second season and gaining traction in the ratings.

Tim Matheson has been married and divorced twice and has three children. He maintains two residences in California.


Actor-director Tim Matheson. 

'Beauty and the Beast' cel. 

'Lady and the Tramp' cel.

Mickey Mouse in 'Fantasia.'

Tinkerbell cel from 'Peter Pan.'

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 15:22
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